WASHINGTON — The U.S. Department of Agriculture released on May 25 a preliminary study revealing existing gaps in the availability of slaughter facilities to small meat and poultry producers.

U.S.D.A.'s Food Safety and Inspection Service conducted the study as a first attempt to identify areas in the U.S. where small livestock and poultry producers are concentrated but may not have access to a nearby slaughter facility.

"To support consumer demand for locally produced agricultural products, meat producers need to have access to local or regional slaughter facilities, and the study we are releasing [May 25] shows that there is often a shortage of facilities needed to bring food to market," said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. "The 'Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food' initiative is working to address various shortcomings in the food supply chain on behalf of our country's producers and consumers. If there is a stronger, closer link between production and consumption, there is often an economic benefit."?

Mr. Vilsack explained the data creates a county-by-county view of the continental U.S., indicating the concentration of small farms raising cattle, hogs and pigs and chicken, and also noting the location of nearby state slaughter facilities and small and very small federal slaughter establishments. U.S.D.A. defines "small slaughter establishments" as those having between 10 and 499 employees, and "very small slaughter establishments" as having fewer than 10 employees or less than $2.5 million in annual sales. For the purpose of the study, small livestock and poultry producers are those who have annual sales of $250,000 or less.

The presentation "Slaughter Availability to Small Livestock and Poultry Producers — Maps" can be found at: http://www.fsis.usda.gov/PDF/KYF_maps-050410_FOR_RELEASE.pdf.